I’ve lost my ever-loving mind.

Monday, October 28, 2013 3 Comments A+ a-

Usually I’m a “Thanksgiving is entitled to its own holiday, therefore Christmas doesn’t happen until the day after Thanksgiving and not a moment sooner” kind of girl.  Usually I roll my eyes at the Christmas decorations in the stores, the holiday music on the radio, and and any talk of Christmas is forbidden until the appropriate time.

However, apparently, I’ve lost my ever-loving mind.

On Saturday, we met up with Becky for our annual Christmas photo taking session.  (2010, 2011, and 2012.) And as I’m trying ever so hard to be patient for the sneak peeks (Becky, I’m failing miserably!), I decided to go online and get some inspiration for Christmas card designs.  I believe I wasted a good hour pulling together my favorites.

image

imageThis one cracked me up!  Seems appropriate for our family.

Then I stumbled across a Christmas craft that I thought would be fun to do with the kids, when then led to other google searches of similar ideas.

This of course led me to Hobby Lobby, where I wasted time wandered the aisles for a good hour or two.  I somehow found Christmas craft supplies in my cart and even contemplated buying a Christmas stock kit for Jon.  I was ::this close:: to purchasing it, but then I remembered that Santa doesn’t visit the adults in this house.  I bypassed the stocking kit, but I currently have a test run of ornaments baking in the oven.

And I’m fairly certain that Grammie’s Chex Mix will be making an appearance by the weekend.  Bring on the holiday spirit…  This year, I’m ready for it!

Deep Waters

Thursday, October 24, 2013 2 Comments A+ a-

Oceans by Hillsong. "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior."Without a doubt, my mother’s love language is gifts.  She often will surprise us with little gifts that will encourage us in our walks with God: books, cds, audio devotionals, little trinkets, etc.  Its really not that surprising to be pulled into the front room of my parents house and have a little gift waiting to be opened.  So when I opened the Lifeway Women set of audio devotionals, I thanked her and took the gift to my car. 

It was several days later before I opened the plastic wrapping and stuck the cds in my player.  I listened to Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Vicki Courtney, Jennifer Rothschild, and several others.  But there was one I was really excited to listen to and when her 10 minute segment was over, I listened to it again.  Then a third, and fourth time.  In fact, whenever it comes to mind, I hit play and I listen to Angie Smith’s devotional; I have it almost memorized by now.  In it, she shares the story of losing her baby girl just hours after she’s born.  Her vulnerability and pain are tangible, as is the hope and lessons she learned in that time.  This section in particular stands out to me…

And I think in my mind, what I’ve started to realize is it’s this image of life on a seashore and not out in the deep, where things are confusing and threatening and scary. I just wanted to hide out from it all and create these fictious worlds where everything was safe. And when Audrey died, something in me snapped. I’d just been thrown into the deep end, completely unprepared. It was the scariest, most awful, and beautifully devastating time of my life.


Because when I found myself out of my comfort zone, in a place where my feet could not touch the bottom anymore, I saw His face. I saw a side of Jesus I had never seen in my life. And I feel like He whispered to me in that season, “Angie, you’ve been making sandcastles your whole life and even when the water comes in, you’ve let yourself become frightened. But Love, I live in the deep. You can’t fall in love with me from the seashore. It’s scary and its upside down, but you’ve got to move away from what’s safe to really see me.”

I do this.  All the time.  I want my Jesus to be packed into a box.  A box that will keep Him (and me) safe and out of harms way.  A box that fits my idea of Jesus, that fits my beliefs and ideals, where I can have all the answers.  I never gave my safe, little world, the “safe” Jesus a second glance.

Until this devotional. 

It uprooted my belief system, it turned it upside down, and I’m still trying to catch my breath.  The Jesus of my box is NOT the Jesus of the Bible.  He requires a lot more faith, a lot more risk than what I’ve been willing to give. 
In June, I posted about IF: as soon as they announced their vision.  When I linked to it from my FB profile, a dear friend pointed me in the direction of Hillsong and their song titled “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”. 

I often wonder what God is up to when I see a repeated lesson happening in my life.  I’ve been around the block a time or two with God that when He repeats Himself, I know I’d better be paying attention.  There’s a reason God is directing me and my belief system to trust Him in deep waters.

Here’s a small sampling of some of the lyrics…

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger'
In the presence of my Saviour

I’m reminded of Peter, when Jesus invited him to walk with Him on the water.  (Coincidentally another lesson involving water.  Or not a coincidence.  You decide.)  A storm had risen and the waves were crashing against the boat, when they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water.  Peter didn’t believe it was really Jesus and asked for permission to walk out to him.  Jesus told him to come, and he did.  It wasn’t until Peter removed his eyes from Jesus that he began to sink.  It wasn’t until Peter focused more on the storm, instead of Jesus, that his unbelief brought on his drowning.
 
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  Matthew 14:31, NLT

I don’t want a God I can explain.  I don’t want a God that fits in my box or a God that I only bring out in times of trial.  I don’t want a God that is stagnant and unmoving.  I want a God that is alive and working in me, in this generation, at this time, now.  And if that means my perception of God is turned upside down and brings me into deep waters, then I WANT that. 

I’m terrified of the unknown.  I’m scared of not having solid ground under my feet, of not being sure-footed, of not knowing my next step.  But I think I’m more scared of not knowing who God wholly is, or living within my self-contained walls.  I also know that I’ve been holding back.  I haven’t been “all in” regarding my faith.  I’ve put restrictions, disclaimers, and parameters on the scenarios in which I’ll obey, on the Truths I’ll believe.  I haven’t been “all in” because I’m still focused on the storm.  I’m still putting more trust in myself, than in God.  The proof is that I’ve been living on the seashore, instead of living out in the deep.

God is asking something of me.  Who do I believe He is?  He’s been revealing Himself bit-by-tiny-bit.  And I’m discovering a God that is huge and deep and exciting and unexplainable.  To follow God, wherever He might lead me, is a wildly adventurous time because I don’t know what He’s going to ask of me.  But I know He’s taking me into deep waters, into the places where I can’t touch the bottom.  A place in which I have no choice but to trust Him there.Trust Without Borders || To trust someone is to believe that they are reliable, honest and good. With that said, I’ve decided to dive into what it really means to trust God without borders. Enjoy! http://meredithbard.wordpress.com

The very bottom of my pit.

Saturday, October 19, 2013 4 Comments A+ a-

I was 19 years old.  I’d been raised in a Christian home, I should have had a stronger faith.  I should have known better.  But my world was crashing down around me and I felt I was suffocating.  It was rising inside me, threatening to take over my person. 

My great-grandmother had died the year before, I’d been accepted and was registered to attend college when the funding fell through, my sister was slowly killing herself with anorexia, and my family was scattered.  Some living in the same town where my sister was in the hospital, the other half living (and I use that term loosely) in our house.  We were ghosts that passed each other in the halls, acknowledging each other's existence but had little interaction, for we were all in survival mode.

I was choking from the lack of control I had in my life.  And I needed an escape, any kind of escape.  I turned to drugs, alcohol, and sex. 

And for a number of weeks, it worked.  I numbed the pain, the fear, and then the shame, with it.  There were a number of times I looked at my life, knowing I was making decisions that went against everything I’d been raised on, but I didn’t care.  It was a way to pretend that everything wasn’t falling apart.  I could pretend that I wasn’t hurting the very ones who loved me.  Including Jon. 

It was the love of family and Jon that brought a halt to that lifestyle.  Confronted with the truth of my actions, I confessed in a heap of tears to my aunt, my parents, my sisters, and Jon.  There’s nothing that will tear at a person’s heart like watching the disappointment in your parents eyes, to watch the pedestal that your younger sisters had you on, crumble like it was made of sand, or to see the heartbreak in your beloved’s eyes when he hears of your betrayals.  It brought me to my knees.


I don’t tell you that story for the fun of it.  Because trust me, reliving that time in my life is anything but fun.  It’s a sobering reminder of where I’d been.  I tell you that story because it’s important to the rest of the story; this past summer.



When I was first approached to do the Marriage Series, I hesitated.  Not because I don’t believe in strong marriages, but because by agreeing to the series, I knew I was painting a target on my back.  I knew I wasn’t in any place to stand strong against the spiritual warfare I knew would follow.  And boy, was I right.

It was the perfect storm.  Spiritual warfare, my grandmother’s death, a sister struggling and I had no way of easing some of her pain, I had been doing too much for too long, long nights, early mornings, my dad’s cancer.  It was a firestorm of circumstances in which I had lost all control.

Old demons rose up.  Enveloping me in darkness, suffocating me, making me desperate.  I thought old, destructive thoughts.  I was tempted to give in to old, destructive behaviors.  And I sat in the bathtub ready to turn in my card of life.  I was done in, exhausted, overwhelmed, I was drowning.  I wanted out

Jon sat by that bathtub every. single. time.  Praying over me, whispering words of love and encouragement, fighting for me when I couldn't.  He was scared.  My mom was scared.  My sisters were scared.  I was scared.  I have never seen myself like that, and for the first time, I had no hope.  None.  I just wanted out.

Then just when I saw a sliver of hope, there was a falling out, hurtful things were said, and I slipped even further under the water.  And again, my loved ones stormed heaven’s gates on my behalf.  They stood in the gap when I couldn’t, they prayed over me when I didn’t want to get out of bed.  They reminded me of the things that were real and true and right.

And then I stepped over to the other side and decided to believe God.


I don’t credit Jon, or my mom, or my loved ones of saving me.  Supporting me?  Yes.  Praying for me?  Certainly.  Holding me up?  Of course.  Being Jesus with skin on for me?  Absolutely.  But I KNOW who saved me from myself. 

I KNOW it was God, JEHOVAH-SABAOTH (The Lord of Hosts, my protector), who refused to leave my side or let go of me.  He fought for me because I am HIS, and it was He that restored my soul.  I’ve never felt His presence more acutely or more tangible than I do right now.  His hand was on me and I survived one of the hardest times in my life BECAUSE of Him.

I won’t do this life correctly, I will mess up.  I will make mistakes and its ok to admit that I have no clue what I’m doing because He is sufficient for me.  As long as I cling to Him and believe in Him, I have everything I need.  Right now my appetite for God and His word is insatiable.  I cannot get enough of His promises for me.  I’m starting to get glimpses of God’s character and how big He is.  I’m standing like a child at His feet, begging for more.  I’m asking Him to increase my thirst for Him, to allow me to fall in love with Him, because when you face the very bottom of your pit and come out alive, you hunger for the one who saved you.

I’m not saying that I’ve faced the end of my depression, anxiety, or panic attacks.  I believe as long as I live on this earth, this will probably be my thorn to bear.  But I pray that I won’t ever forget this summer, the darkest of moments, I thought all was lost, and then the light at the end of it.  Because truth be told, if I had to experience that darkness to reach this point of love for my Savior, it was worth it.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! 
Worship the Lord with gladness. 
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.

We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.


Psalm 100

At least they’re not screaming in here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013 3 Comments A+ a-

I’m currently listening to the four Littles screaming in their rooms.  They’re alternating between screaming at each other, at me, and sometimes they throw in a song or two.  You know, just to add to the noise. 

They have no school today and tomorrow for parent-teacher conferences and I’m already ::this close:: to pulling my hair out.  It has been non-stop fighting and bickering all morning long.  I threatened to grab one of Jon’s shirts and create a get-along shirt.  But then I just decided I was going to lose it and instead of sending myself to timeout (which would’ve been a better option, I suppose), I sent all of them to their rooms.  Every single one.  And I really have no intention of letting them out until Jon gets home.  (I can dream, right?)  Oh well, at least they’re not screaming in here.

But I’m forced to admit something here.  And it was a confession I gave to Reagan’s teacher last week and my friend, Dana, this week.  Deep breath.  Here goes.

“I have no freaking clue what I’m doing.”

This parenting gig is hard stuff.  HARD STUFF. Why did no one tell me that after the baby cuddles, the late nights, the toddler tantrums, the potty training, that this parenting stuff just gets harder?!   Another friend and I were joking that we’d give anything to go back in time to those days of little sleep and diaper changing.  And perhaps we’re romanticizing it a bit, but the reality is, as physically exhausting as those days were, this new stage is just as hard.  Just in another way. 

I genuinely have no clue what I’m doing.  I feel like I’m shooting in the dark and praying that no one suffers irreparable harm by our parenting decisions.  After all, I’m raising little people here.  Little people that will one day, grow up and join the big world.  And please, oh please Lord, let them be good, contributing members of society, in spite of my failures.

This is not a woe-is-me post.  Because honestly, after our parent-teacher conferences yesterday, I’m fairly confident that no permanent damage has been done yet.  And quite frankly, I’m very proud of the people Devyn and Hudson are becoming.  In fact, brace yourself, I need to brag for a moment.  And since its my blog, I’m allowed. 


Devyn, my love, I love your confidence.  You are one of the most confident children I have ever met.  It’s a quiet strength, but it shines through in all you do.  And when your teacher called you a leader, I sat up a little straighter because its true.  You are beautiful, Devyn Paige!  Inside and out, and I can’t wait to see what you do with your life.

Hudson Jonathan, I am awed by your dedication and determination for school.  You are enthusiastic about learning and you always give 100% effort.  I can’t ever ask for more than that!  Your teacher says your smile lights up the room, and I can’t help but agree with her.  She also said you’re a wonderful friend to everyone.  Keep up the good work, Buddy!


No, this isn’t about woe-is-me.  Its simply a realistic look at parenting.  As much as I fear that we’re screwing up, as often as I think about all of our mistakes, no matter how much I doubt our decisions, I need to remember there’s a whole of grace involved in parenting.  Yes, grace for our children, but grace for ourselves too.  We may have no clue what we’re doing, but somewhere along the way, we’re doing something right.

And now, I should probably break up the fight that’s currently taking place in Devyn and Reagan’s room.  Hudson is screaming, “Devyn took something out of something!”  Which is incredibly vague and I should probably go see what he means by that.  Think anyone will notice if I grab a glass of wine and go sit in my closet the rest of the day?  Sigh.  I thought so.

IF: Gathering (Local)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013 4 Comments A+ a-

We had our first session with Beth Moore and the Believing God bible study this past Saturday.  I went into the study not knowing much about the content.  And I walked out of that study breathless.  In a “God, I don’t know what you’re up to but its terrifying me” kind of way.

I am terrified y’all.  TERRIFIED.  Terrified to write this post.  Terrified to hit the publish button.  Terrified to see where God is going to lead this…

Back to Beth Moore and Believing God for a minute.  In the first lesson she said something that I immediately wrote down and highlighted. 

“My bride is paralyzed by unbelief.” 

Let that sink in for a moment.

If we believe that God is who He says He is, the world should know us by our love.  If we believe that God is who He says He is, mountains should be moving, lives should be turned inside out and upside down.  If we believe that God is who He says He is, we should be stepping up, the first to step our toes in the Jordan River  and see the river bed become dry.  And since I KNOW my God is who He says He is, I know that He desires so much more for His church, His children, this life.  The church has become stagnant, bored, divided, mediocre.  All the things God never intended for the church to become.  How are we showing the glory of His name?  How are we sharing that His love is life-changing?

When IF: Gathering first announced their vision in June, I felt the hair on my arms rise.  This was it, the undercurrent and pull I’d been feeling in my soul for some time.  It excited me because I now knew that there were other women out there who felt the same stirring I was feeling.  I was going to do my best to be in Austin in February.  Wild horses wouldn’t have kept me away!  I just knew I needed to be there!

There is a restlessness among the next generation of women, who fear more than anything – wasting their lives. We want to harness their hunger and passion by providing space to be equipped to pursue their God-given dreams.

The IF:Gathering is a fresh, deep, honest space for a new generation of women to wrestle with the essential question:

IF God is real… THEN what?

How do we live?  How do we unify and dream for the name of Christ in our generation from our unique places?  We are praying this will satisfy a longing to return to what is deep and simple and pure about life and faith.


Then IF: Gathering announced that they’re throwing open the doors to include a live webcast to allow women from all over the world to share in this two-day conference.  And I knew this was a better answer.  More of my friends would be able to gather, learn from the conference, from each other in a local setting than trying to attempt a weekend in Texas.


Then I thought, how great would it be to find a group of women who crave this as much as I do?  I want to gather with like-minded women in THIS city, I want to spend a weekend praising God with them, learning alongside them, being inspired, and most importantly, having accountability and encouragement with those same women when life gets messy and hard and ugly.  When we can stand in the gap and be strong for our friends when they’re feeling weak.  I want to live life with these same women who want to passionately love and serve our Lord.  I want to experience the church as God intended it.  I want it now.

And so I come to you, Local Gathering. 
  • Are you interested in doing this with me? 
  • Are you willing to step into the unknown to help plan, to make it possible to gather these like-minded women? 
I don’t know what it’ll look like.  I have no clue.  Will it be big?  Or small?  Will it be in a church setting?  Or in a home?  I have no idea.  But I know there are other women out there who feel this same urgency and desire as I do.  And I just want to make it possible for others to have the same opportunity to hear how God is moving and be inspired. 

If you’re interested in attending or helping me plan, let me know!  If you know me in real life, you can reach me via a private FB message.  I’m also available through email (biggest_blessings (at) yahoo.com) or through leaving me a comment here.  Just make sure I have a way to get in touch with you.  And we’ll go from there…

During that same first session with Beth Moore and Believing God, she paused for a moment, looked at the camera, and said, “I’m going to pray that God works in a BIG way for you during the course of this study.”  Since we meet every other week, we’re looking at 18 weeks to finish.  As I started counting out the weeks on paper, I just knew what number I was going to end on.  Sure enough, 18 weeks from the first study was the weekend of IF: Gathering.  I remember blowing out my breath and saying to myself, “Ok, God.  Let’s see what you’re up to!”  Even if no more than five women gather in my basement, I know God will meet us there.  I can’t wait!

IF: Gathering (Local)
Northern Colorado
Live Webcast
February 7-8, 2014
Isaiah

Continuing the Randomness

Thursday, October 03, 2013 4 Comments A+ a-

God Be PraisedWe sang “As For Me” in church on Sunday and, for the life of me, I couldn’t get the song out of my head all week.  So what did I do?  Created a printable of course.  If you’d like a copy yourself, just click on the image.

I’m not sure if you saw this quote on IG or not, but it made me reminisce over good books and classic movies.  I decided to bid on a few new books on Ebay.  I can’t wait for Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and the Little House books to make their appearance in our mailbox.  I have visions of reading with the Littles, and (hopefully) having them enjoy them as much as I did. 

imageI’ve also rented Seven Brides For Seven Brothers last night and have watched it three times with the Littles.  It has brought back so many memories of watching this movie over and over with the sisters.  Of course, we acted out the whole movie alongside the actors.  I think Devyn and I renting West Side Story this weekend.  Another favorite of mine!

Why this weekend?  Well, Jon is on his annual fishing trip this weekend.  And I’m single-parenting it for the next few days.  Every year since 2005, Jon goes fishing over a long weekend during the first week in October.  He’s gone with brothers, his dad, cousins, Grandpa, and this year, with friends.  However, we supposed to received our first snow this weekend.  I’m pretty sure his fishing trip will look something like this.  And he’ll love every moment of it!

imageThe Littles have decided what they’re going to be for Halloween this year.  Let me list the costumes we’ve done over the years… A flower, black cat, caterpillar, butterfly, Snow White, lion, Dorothy, cheerleader, cowgirl, GI Joe (2 years in a row), Mulan, ladybug, bumblebee, 50s girl, cowboy, Tinkerbell, and cowgirl (different girl this time).  We are running out of options!  So this year we’re doing a Renaissance princess, a policeman, cheerleader (again), and Little Bo Peep.  I’m happy that almost all costumes are bought for and in our possession.  Now I can enjoy the rest of October.

imageI’m currently doing two Beth Moore studies, A Woman’s Heart and Believing God.  One meets weekly, and the other meets every other week.  It makes for a lot of homework!  But I NEED this!  I can always tell when I’m not abiding in His word…  Its ugly.  And this past summer was ugly.  Ugly in the way that deserves its own post, and I will, I promise.  But these studies, wow!  I’m learning so much, and loving every minute!

imageI’ve been having some serious discussions with family and friends about the title of Christian and faith.  I feel like I’m learning a lot about God’s desire for MY life.  I think so often we can get caught up in what everyone else is doing.  Looking to the right and the left, measuring our sins against the sins of others.  Saying one is too self-righteous, hypocritical, or judgmental, then on the other hand, doing the very same thing when we decide someone else’s sin is greater than ours.  I feel like God is really working on this with me.  “Right here,” I feel like God is saying to me.  “Keep your eyes on Me.  Look neither to the right or the left, keep your eyes here.  This journey is about you and me, and obeying my commands for your life.  If I’ve convicted you of a sin in your life, it doesn’t mean I’ve convicted another of the same thing.  This is about OUR relationship, OUR walk together.”  I hate that I get so focused on what others are doing, or not doing in their lives, especially when I have enough on my own plate.  But I really feel like God is trying to free me from this thought process.

imageOn Monday night, Hudson came into the living room where I was working.  “I need to be honest with you, Mama,” he said.  I braced myself.  “Reagan’s cutting her hair and I helped.”  I vividly remember telling myself to breathe and counted to 5, then 50, then 100.  Finally I felt calm enough to call Reagan into the room.  She walked in with a shirt covering her head.  I might have gasped, and teared up, when the shirt came off.  Apparently, Reagan cut off the top of her ponytail and the sides, and then Hudson offered to cut the back because she couldn’t reach it.  There was a good 4-6 inches of missing hair!  One lone curl was the only evidence that longer had existed.  We went to Great Clips where the hairdresser was able to clean it up and created an adorable, short bob on our Miss Rea.  I love it!  It’s a style that I never would have considered for my 4-year-old, but it suits her so well.  And she LOVES it.  Oy, I thought our escapades with scissors were behind us.

There you go…  Just a few random, thoughts from yours truly.  I really hope to writing some actual posts here soon.  I have much to say, but little time in which to sit and type it out.  Ha!